All eyes in Stillwater and Lincoln, Nebraska, were on Rachel Becker; heck, some eyes in West Lafayette, Indiana, were probably tuned in.
OSU (43-14) had two runners on in the top of the seventh of Game 6 of the Stillwater Regional, a game that, if the Cowgirls won, would advance them to the Super Regional. If they lost, they’d face Nebraska (36-21) in a do-or-die game right after.
Becker, the All-American who shattered school records in four seasons at Purdue, had never played in a postseason game prior to this weekend.
But she was ready; that’s who she is.
"When they called time, I just looked and her at gave her a little encouragement, and she just looked like the Rachel I see every day, and I was like, ‘We’re in good shape here,’" OSU coach Kenny Gajewski said.
"That’s something I feel like I’ve been waiting for my whole career," Becker said. "Stepping up to the plate, my heart was beating a little bit; I was feeling it. But I knew if I saw my pitch, I was gonna swing hard at it."
Becker took her pitch—the first one thrown in her at-bat—and capitalized, ripping the ball to center field and bringing two Cowgirls home. Cowgirl Stadium erupted; they were back on top. They finished on top too, beating the Huskers 5-2 to capture the Stillwater Regional title.
The Cowgirls held a one-run lead heading into the bottom of the fifth inning. Lexi Kilfoyl entered in relief for Kelly Maxwell, who exited the circle after 74 pitches. Kilfoyl, who threw 88 pitches against Wichita State Saturday afternoon, couldn’t have started her relief efforts off much worse.
The Alabama transfer’s first pitch bounced off home plate before ricocheting off Cowgirl catcher Taylor Tuck’s chest. Husker shortstop Billie Andrews took off from third base and sprinted to the plate, tying the game up.
Five pitches later, Kilfoyl and Tuck found themselves in an all-too-familiar situation. Kilfoyl left another pitch low, once again connecting with home plate, and it bounced off the bottom of Tuck’s glove before rolling through her legs. Husker pitcher Courtney Wallace, like Andrews, headed straight for home from third and gave Nebraska (36-21).
Two wild pitches with odd bounces off a catcher seemingly back-to-back—Gajewski had never seen anything like it during his nearly 30-year coaching career.
"I’ve never seen that in my time, so that’s a first," Gajewski said.
Cowgirl fans fell silent. The few Husker fans made their presence known.
After an empty sixth inning, the Cowgirls entered the seventh inning three outs away from a Sunday doubleheader.
After a Morgyn Wynne groundout to start the inning, fans started gearing up for a few more hours at Cowgirl Stadium. Tallen Edwards entered the box and fought her way to a full count before ripping one down the left field line.
Edwards, the true freshman who should’ve just wrapped up her final semester at Southmoore this month, decided to forgo her senior season and a chance at a fourth-straight state title to become a Cowgirl. Even at her young age, she didn’t shy away from the moment; she came to Stillwater early for this.
"This is what I left high school for," Edwards said. I knew what I was stepping into; that’s the main reason on why I made this decision. I watched a lot of Oklahoma State’s games last year, and being able to see the girls in those moments, I wanted to step in... I got my shot today; when I got it, I was ready to go; I wasn’t gonna budge."
After Edwards’ hit, some murmurs began, and there was hope.
Then true freshman Katie Lott came to the plate, pinch-hitting for Tuck. After discussing it over with assistant coaches Vanessa Shippy-Fletcher and Whitney Cloer, Gajewski decided to roll with Lott; he had a gut feeling.
"I have a good feeling about Katie," Gajewski said to Cloer after weighing his options.
Lott got the nod and delivered, getting on base with a single and advancing Edwards to second.
Then came Becker, who delivered on the biggest stage in her five-year career thus far. Putting the Cowgirls up one
After a Chyenne Factor single, Kiley Naomi brought one home off a fielding error, and Micaela Wark had a sac groundout to send Becker to the plate.
After a four-hit, four-run Cowgirl seventh inning rally, the Huskers were deflated. Their postseason life was snatched away.
Despite one Husker single, the Cowgirls wrapped up the game with a double play from Naomi to Wark.
When Becker was handed a headset for the ESPN postgame interview, her teammates were forced to wait to mob her. "Rachel Becker" chants boomed from the left field deck. This was her game.
"It was awesome; that was just insane," Becker said of the "Rachel Becker" chants. "Having our fans here and just the energy in the stadium, especially in the top of that seventh inning, it was amazing."
With the win, the Cowgirls will host a fourth-straight Super Regional, and they’ll face off against Oregon.
Until then, Becker and Gajewski will continue to relish this perfect moment.
"I walked over to one of our coaches and I said, ‘I don’t think I could’ve drawn this thing up any better than this,’" Gajewski said.